Reviewing your credit card statement every month is important. If you toss it in the trash as soon as you receive it, you may miss the chance to catch a mistake. A merchant may have charged you twice for the same item. Or there could be an unauthorized charge on your bill. Don’t assume that challenging a credit card charge is a waste of time. Here are a few strategies you can implement if you’re trying to win a credit card dispute.
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1. Contact the Merchant First
If there’s a clerical error or another issue with your credit card bill, it’s best to try and resolve it with the retailer. That’s usually the quickest way to solve your problem. If you’re dealing with a fraudulent charge, however, it’s OK reach out to your creditor first.
But what if a merchant ignores you or fails to do his part to make things right? At that point, you may need to file a complaint with your credit card issuer.
2. Avoid Procrastinating
If you need to dispute a credit card charge and/or request a chargeback (the cancellation of a transaction and the issue of a refund by a bank instead of a retailer), you’ll need to do so as soon as possible. There are laws that protect consumers with credit card issues, such as the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) and the Truth in Lending Act. But often, they only fully apply when you file a dispute within a specific time frame.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, billing errors include mathematical mistakes, charges you never authorized, incorrect charges and missing returns and credit card payments. Under the FCBA, you can dispute these kinds of errors within 60 days of receiving your bill. Of course, depending on your credit card company, you may have as many as 120 days to open a credit card dispute.
Does that mean you shouldn’t try to dispute a charge if you’ve waited too long to address it? No. But not handling it right away may reduce your chances of winning your credit card dispute.
3. Prepare to Make Your Case
In many cases, you can dispute a credit card charge simply by calling your credit card issuer or completing an online form. But you may need to write to your creditor. If you’re required to submit a letter, it’s best to mail it via certified mail. Don’t forget to request a return receipt so you know your credit card issuer got everything it was supposed to receive.
Regardless of how you attempt to resolve your billing issue, it’s a good idea to gather any documents related to it. Receipts, canceled checks, proof of returns and emails between you and the merchant involved may help your case if you’re trying to dispute a charge.
4. Know Your Rights
Understanding the laws that protect consumers is imperative. Being familiar with the FCBA, for example, can be helpful if you’re thinking about disputing a billing error.
Keep in mind that you can take legal action against both a merchant and your creditor, if necessary. For example, if your credit card issuer isn’t following the rules under the FCBA, you can complain to the Federal Trade Commission or file a lawsuit.
5. Stand Your Ground
Persistence may be the key to winning your credit card dispute. If your creditor starts an investigation but nothing happens, you can try using the claims and defenses argument. You’ll have up to a year to file this kind of complaint with your merchant through a letter or over the phone. But in order to take advantage of it, you’ll need to meet certain criteria.
For example, the value of whatever you paid for must exceed $50. And in order to dispute your charge, you must have attempted to get the merchant to fix the issue first. If you didn’t buy the product in your state, you must have purchased it within 100 miles of your home. Finally, if you’ve already paid off credit card debt that you now want to dispute, you won’t be able to complain about it through the process for claims and defenses.
You should also use the claims and defenses complaint to challenge a credit card charge if the quality of the product or service you invested in doesn’t meet your expectations. This type of issue cannot be resolved using the dispute process that applies to billing errors.
Disputing a credit card charge may take time. But winning a dispute is possible, especially if you’re aware of the laws that protect you and you have plenty of documents that can help your case.
Just remember that merchants have rights too. And even if you think a credit card dispute has been settled, the retailer may still come after you. That’s why it’s important to keep up with any paperwork related to the dispute even after it’s over, just in case.
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